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A systematic literature review on the efficacy–effectiveness gap: comparison of randomized controlled trials and observational studies of glucose-lowering drugs

Authors Ankarfeldt MZ, Adalsteinsson E, Groenwold RHH, Ali MS, Klungel OH

Received 9 September 2016

Accepted for publication 3 December 2016

Published 23 January 2017 Volume 2017:9 Pages 41—51


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Professor Henrik Toft Sørensen

Mikkel Z Ankarfeldt,1,2 Erpur Adalsteinsson,1 Rolf HH Groenwold,2,3 M Sanni Ali,2,3,4 Olaf H Klungel,2,3 On behalf of GetReal Work Package 2

1Novo Nordisk A/S, 2Julius Center for Health Sciences and Primary Care, University Medical Center Utrecht, 3Division of Pharmacoepidemiology and Clinical Pharmacology, Utrecht Institute for Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Utrecht, Utrecht, the Netherlands; 4Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology, Musculoskeletal Sciences, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK

Aim: To identify a potential efficacy–effectiveness gap and possible explanations (drivers of effectiveness) for differences between results of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and observational studies investigating glucose-lowering drugs.
Methods: A systematic literature review was conducted in English language articles published between 1 January, 2000 and 31 January, 2015 describing either RCTs or observational studies comparing glucagon-like peptide-1 analogs (GLP-1) with insulin or comparing dipeptidyl peptidase-4 inhibitors (DPP-4i) with sulfonylurea, all with change in glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) as outcome. Medline, Embase, Current Content, and Biosis were searched. Information on effect estimates, baseline characteristics of the study population, publication year, study duration, and number of patients, and for observational studies, characteristics related to confounding adjustment and selection- and information bias were extracted.
From 312 hits, 11 RCTs and 7 observational studies comparing GLP-1 with insulin, and from 474 hits, 16 RCTs and 4 observational studies comparing DPP-4i with sulfonylurea were finally included. No differences were observed in baseline characteristics of the study populations (age, sex, body mass index, time since diagnosis of type 2 diabetes mellitus, and HbA1c) or effect sizes across study designs. Mean effect sizes ranged from −0.43 to 0.91 and from −0.80 to 1.13 in RCTs and observational studies, respectively, comparing GLP-1 with insulin, and from −0.13 to 2.70 and −0.20 to 0.30 in RCTs and observational studies, respectively, comparing DPP-4i and sulfonylurea. Generally, the identified observational studies held potential flaws with regard to confounding adjustment and selection- and information bias.
Conclusions: Neither potential drivers of effectiveness nor an efficacy–effectiveness gap were identified. However, the limited number of studies and potential problems with confounding adjustment, selection- and information bias in the observational studies, may have hidden a true efficacy-effectiveness gap.

Keywords: efficacy–effectiveness gap, diabetes mellitus, type 2, glucose-lowering drugs, hemoglobin A1c, literature review

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